Spurs’ Son Heung-min hopes to win Asian Games to avoid military service
Tottenham player hopes to get exemption from service if South Korea win gold medal
Tottenham Hotspur’s South Korean midfielder Son Heung-Min in action during their pre-season friendly against AC Milan in Minneapolis. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
Tottenham’s Son Heung-min will miss some of the start of the Premier League season to represent South Korea at the Asian Cup in an attempt to win the competition and therefore avoid military service.
South Korean law dictates that all males must be called up for military service before the age of 28 for a period of 21 months. However, exemptions are made for high-profile sports stars who achieve success for the nation.
A gold medal at the Games –which South Korea did win in 2014 – would almost certainly be enough for the 26-year-old to avoid the compulsory service while he would also have one more chance gain an exemption in two years if South Korea win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.
Son will be available for Spurs’ first game of the season against Newcastle on Saturday August 11th but will then head for Indonesia to play as one of the three allowed overage players in what is an under-23 tournament.
Son, who has recently signed a new Spurs contract until 2023, could miss up to three Premier League games before returning to England and on Tuesday he apologised to the club and his teammates after their 1-0 friendly win over AC Milan in Minneapolis.
“I feel sorry because Tottenham is my team and I feel very sorry to be leaving my teammates,” he said. “I am playing for my country and that is also important, but honestly I feel very sorry about that. That is what I feel.
“We can talk about [the national service] afterwards. We haven’t won it already. We are going there to win something, and winning trophies for my country is always good. I don’t travel there for nothing.”
Last year, South Korean golfer Sang Moon Bae – who is a former PGA Tour winner and Presidents Cup player – returned to the tour after completing his two years as a rifleman in the army.
The 32-year-old had fought a legal battle to avoid the miliatry service but lost and was forced to take a two-year break from professional golf to serve his country.